Yes, Maggie Mac Neil has seen the meme of her squinting to see if she won gold

Just like the rest of us, Canadian Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Maggie Mac Neil has been laughing at the memes showing her squinting to see how she placed in the 100-metre butterfly final.

“As long as I can see the wall, I’m good as far as swimming goes,” the 19-year-old told CTV News Channel in a joint interview with her Olympic relay teammate Sydney Pickrem.

Mac Neil, who won Canada’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games last week, had a tough time seeing the scoreboard at the time, because she’s near-sighted but doesn’t wear contacts or prescription goggles when swimming.

“I don’t think I’m into the whole contacts thing,” she said. “I’ve just never tried to try them out and, as a swimmer, I feel like that’s a pretty good decision to make.”

Races often end in a blur for Mac Neil, and photos of her squinting to see where she placed quickly spread online shortly after her big win, with millions of people online sharing the image.

“That meme has been sent to me by at least 50 of my friends,” Mac Neil laughed, adding that she often had to tell them she’d already seen the photos.

Pickrem, who was part of the bronze-medal-winning Canadian 4x100-metre medley relay team on Sunday, chuckled alongside Mac Neil.

Pickrem performed the breaststroke part of the race, which isn’t her specialty. She said she was only focused on making her teammates proud: “I just wanted to be a team player. And this was such a cool experience for me in swimming and it’s given me a whole new perspective at these Olympic Games.”

She has high hopes for both the Canadian women’s and men’s swimming team in the near future and said in “2024, we’re definitely someone to look out for.”

The pair also discussed their mental health challenges -- a conversation U.S. gymnast Simone Biles and Japanese tennis pro Naomi Osaka have brought into the forefront this year.

“I think there’s a lot of reasons I didn’t swim in the 400 IM [individual medley] and that’s definitely a big factor,” Pickrem said, referring to her mental health. “I made the best decision for me.”

Mac Neil said the pandemic, the delays to the start of the Games, and the rejigging of her training regimen all affected her.

“I think we learned to live in the moment, and I think that was a very important takeaway from the last year and a half,” she said. “I think it’s definitely a struggle to stay motivated and keep training."